CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks are tied atop the Western Conference standings with 31 points along with the Minnesota Wild, but Patrick Kane knows his team still has a long way to go before it becomes the team everyone wants them to be.
"We’re still figuring ourselves out a little bit so that’s always a concern," Kane said after Monday's practice. "We always want to be better defensively. We don’t have to give up too many goals … Play simple, hard, try to play defense first. We should be a very tough team to beat."
After scratching out a couple wins in their last two games on the annual "circus trip," the Hawks like the direction they are heading, even if they agree there is still a lot of room for improvement.
"I think we believe we’re a good team," Patrick Sharp said. "I don’t know if we’ve seen it yet, but I think we’re going in the right direction. Right from the coaching staff, right down to the last player on the team. We feel we’ve got a team that can compete with any team in the league, and it’s a process getting to that point."
Like his players, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville is confident that the growth that comes in that process is on schedule.
"I think we’re learning about [our identity]," he said. "I think we’re improving in certain areas. I think we’re getting our power play rolling now and I think that can improve as well. I think defensively we can get better in the puck area. We’re starting to be a little bit more predictable around the ice in all zones … I think there are a lot of different options we have as a team and I think we should improve from here."
All of those options continue to be worked out on a game-to-game basis, something the players are taking in stride.
"It’s going to be like that a little bit, especially with a new team," Kane said. "There’s a lot of changes with lines and different things. You’re always trying to figure out your best lineups, so I’m sure the coaches are trying to figure things out too."
No matter what they decide, the Hawks know if they continue to play the same way, they'll be in good shape as they hit a softer part of the schedule featuring nine home games in December.
"There’s not really any major concerns standing out," Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. "The little things that maybe hinder our game a little bit we just got to keep working at it. Working at our weaknesses. Most of all, it’s just preparation. We know what we got to do, and we’ve got guys that can go out there and do it."